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The long term health of your teeth and gums depends upon your genetics, regular professional care, and the manner in which you care for your teeth on a daily basis. Daily brushing and flossing are the two most important things you can do for your teeth and gums!
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film which is loaded with bacteria. These bacteria feed off of the food particles in your mouth and produce acids and other toxic byproducts which destroy your teeth and gum tissue. They can even destroy the bone under the gum. Plaque is only loosely attached to your teeth and is easily removed with proper brushing and flossing. Be certain your dentist or hygienist instructs you in the proper removal of plaque in your next visit.
Tartar, which is also called "calculus," is a hard mineral buildup which occurs on many teeth, more commonly in adults. It makes your teeth rough and allows for even greater accumulations of plaque, bacteria, and food debris around the teeth and gums which can lead to more advanced periodontal (gum) disease. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing; it takes specialized cleaning by a hygienist or dentist to remove.
Nearly everyone brushes, but very few people do it properly or effectively. Like almost anything it takes time to do well and thoroughly. You should use a soft bristle toothbrush, as medium or hard brushes damage the tooth or gum tissues. A toothbrush should be replaced approximately every three to four months, or when the bristles are no longer straight. You should concentrate on cleaning only one or two teeth at a time, and you need to be careful to brush the inside, outside, and chewing surface of each tooth, both top and bottom arches. Use an "up and down" or "circular" motion rather than "scrubbing" back and forth. Think in terms of massaging your teeth and gums. Your goal should be to brush every time you eat something, snacks included. At bedtime, you should try to brush for five minutes.
Even if you brush effectively, you are only cleaning 60% of the tooth; the other 40% of the tooth surface between adjacent teeth cannot be reached by your toothbrush. Flossing is the most effective method of cleaning between your teeth as well as behind the last tooth. Choose floss that is easy for you to use. Break off about 18 inches of floss and wrap around your middle fingers. Use your index fingers and thumbs to guide the floss between your teeth. When working with floss around your gums wrap the floss around the tooth in a "c" shape and clean up and down only. If you haven't been flossing regularly, your gums may bleed for five to seven days. If your gums continue to bleed after a week, you should see your dentist. A squeaky sound when flossing indicates that the tooth is clean.
Mouth rinses or mouth washes usually are used to control decay (fluoride rinses), gum diseases, and bad breath. When looking for a mouthwash to control decay or gum disease, be sure to look for the ADA Seal, which is your assurance that the product is effective. When used to control bad breath, mouthwashes are often only a short duration mask of the problem. Recently, mouth rinses with zinc or chlorine dioxide have been found to be more effective at controlling mouth odors. In our office, we distribute Oxyfresh oral rinse and toothpaste with stabilized chlorine dioxide, and have had good results reported by patients who have tried it.
Fluoride helps fight cavities by making teeth more resistant to the decay process. Fluoride can come from drinking water, toothpaste, topic rinses, and in prescription products recommended by your pediatrician or dentist. At the office we have toothpaste, topical rinses and prescription products available for you to purchase.